Press: Zambia Repatriates Zimbabwean Troops who Fled DR Congo
More than 200 Zimbabwean soldiers who fled into Zambia after a rebel offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been repatriated, state media reported Tuesday.
Zambian General Timothy Kazembe, head of a Joint Military Commission set up to oversee a cease-fire in the DRC, said the Zimbabwean troops, who back the DRC regime, were sent to Harare, the government-owned Times of Zambia said.
Meanwhile, some 3,700 DRC soldiers who also fled into Zambia were under guard in the northern rural town of Kaputa, across the border from the Pweto region of southeastern DRC, where the clashes were taking place, Kazemba said.
The senior officer -- whose country plays a neutral, mediating role -- said that only 97 DRC soldiers loyal to President Laurent Kabila renounced their military status. They were immediately given refugee status.
Kazembe was in Zambia's Northern Province, which has seen a major influx of refugees from clashes between DRC troops, their allies and Rwandan-backed rebels, in breach of the cease-fire signed by all parties to the conflict in August 1999.
Zambian President Frederick Chiluba on Sunday said he was concerned at the arrival of armed combatants fleeing the DRC war into his country and expressed fears that they could bring war with them.
"I know we have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters but we must be alert at all times. These refugees can easily bring war into Zambia if given much freedom," Chiluba said, urging Zambian troops on the border to take steps to prevent conflict.
Meanwhile, civilian refugees are continuing to fleeing the battle zone into Zambia, the spokesman here for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has said, appealing for humanitarian assistance to help them.
The DRC war was sparked by a rebel uprising against Kabila in August 1988. Three main rebel movements are backed by Rwanda and Uganda, while Kinshasa's troops have military support from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia -- LUSAKA (AFP)
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